Ruffner Mountain is part of a once vibrant mining community. Iron ore deposits were plentiful in the mountain making it a great source for the mineral needed to grow the iron and steel industry in Birmingham. Today a number of hiking trails are available throughout the park. Some can be directly accessed from the visitor center or main trail head; whereas other require a hike. The hike to the Sandstone trail is actually longer than the trail itself; but the sandstone ledge offers a nice photo opportunity.
Starting at the main trail head, follow the Hollow Tree trail up the mountain and over the wooden boardwalk. At the top, turn left (northeast) and follow the dirt access road until you come to the Buckeye trail. The Buckeye trails offers views of several sunken mines as you descend the mountain. The trail is steep at places as it transverses the mixed pine and hardwood forest. As you reach the bottom, you will see a trail kiosk on the left. Continue straight to the large open pathway. This was once a rail bed for the Birmingham Mineral Railroad. Turning left, you will follow the rail bed for a short distance before turning right and continuing along the trail past a large picnic structure on the right. Just past the picnic area you will reach the beginning of both the Wetland and Sandstone Ridge trails. The Sandstone Ridge trail veers right and continues uphill for a short distance. The trail itself is a loop. At the intersection you can continue straight or turn right. Continuing straight you will proceed uphill and then slowly level off as you loop around the sandstone foundations. Near the halfway point, the trail turns downhill and then follows parallel to the upper portion except that you are now at the bottom of the ridge. You will soon intersect your previous path. Turning left, you will return along the same trails as you took to reach the sandstone ridge.
As I approached the top of the Buckeye trail, I decided to take a slightly different route back to the trail head. Turning right (northeast), you can proceed along the road until you come to an intersection with the fire tower road. Turning down hill, the road will bring you back to the main trail head.
This hike is a great day hike. The Buckeye trail which provided access to the other trails is identified on maps as difficult, and I would concur. Returning up the mountain can be difficult as the trail is steep and rocky. There are other ways to available to access the Wetland and Sandstone Ridge trails which are shown on Ruffner maps. The woods provide nice shade during the hike and wildlife is abundant for an urban park. Pack water and enjoy your hike.